'Gotham' postmortem: Jada Pinkett Smith on Fish Mooney's fate
Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of Gotham. Read at your own risk!
Fish Mooney finally made her triumphant return to town in the season finale—but her reign as Queen of Gotham was short-lived.
As the turf war between Falcone (John Doman) and Maroni (David Zayas) reached a boiling point, both Mooney and the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) made a bid to take over the city. Penguin attempts to put Falcone down for good, but with nothing to lose, Gordon (Ben McKenzie) comes to his rescue and gets him to a safe house—a location Fish is privy to as she shows up with her new army, which includes Selina (Camren Bicondova).
But being under Maroni’s thumb doesn’t sit well with Mooney, so she kills him, but eventually falls victim to the Penguin, who sends her to a watery grave after being shot by Butch (Drew Powell). Is Mooney really dead? EW caught up with Pinkett Smith to get the scoop:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is Fish Mooney really dead?
JADA PINKETT SMITH: That’s for the fans to determine. You saw the ending. She could be and she couldn’t be. Who knows? It was an interesting ending.
You did previously say that you are not going to be back for season 2. Is that still the case?
I will not be a series regular in season 2.
But is there a possibility you’ll pop up?
If she survives the fall. [Laughs] Yeah, I mean, it was water below.
Did you always have a sense of Mooney’s ultimate fate?
I signed for a year. I don’t think any of us really thought that Fish would have the life that she’s had or be one of the favorite characters on the show. She was there to service a purpose, as far as helping to tell Penguin’s story. I never knew exactly what it was going to be, but she’s not part of the original mythology. She was created for the television show specifically. I’m a smart girl. I understood I was there to service Penguin.
How do you feel about the way Fish went out?
She’s one of the characters that has been the most difficult to let go of. I still have my Fish Mooney nails and I think I’m going to keep them for a while. I love Fish. She’s one of my favorite characters. If she survives, I would definitely be willing to do whatever was necessarily to continue servicing the story of Gotham. I think I’m going to hold onto these nails for a minute.
Because Fish wasn’t part of the comics, did you have more freedom to carve out who this character is?
Definitely. I felt like I had an opportunity to be part of a franchise that I’ve been watching and reading about since I was a little girl. I was given the opportunity to help create a character that would be part of the Gotham myth, even if it’s only on television. I was like, “Wow, who gets that opportunity to do that?” I’m kind of a comic book geek myself, so that was an opportunity I couldn’t give up. I felt like I did have a lot more license than maybe some of the other characters, because those characters—like the Penguin or the Riddler or Catwoman—are in a very specific mythology in regards to the franchise of Batman. I felt like I was given a bit more creative license for sure.
Penguin is now calling himself the king of Gotham. How do you think Fish Mooney would feel about that?
First of all, she’s like, “No way! You can forget it!” If she heard that going down, you can best believe she’s going to do everything she can to survive or rise from the dead to make sure he never says those words again. She is pissed. She’s not happy about that at all. He probably feels that for the time being, but that’s not going to last. No.
What have you learned from playing this role?
One thing I can say about Fish is she’s given me the desire to be in front of the camera again. There weren’t a lot of roles that inspired me. That’s changing now, especially on television. Movies, we’re working at it. She was the first character that came along that I was like, “Oh man.” Once I got involved, she just inspired me. I was like, “I gotta start doing this more again.” That’s what’s been different, is that she’s been kind of a muse for me as far as me figuring out the direction that I want to take creatively, because I really was kind of lost for a while. “Will I be in front of the camera again? Am I just going to stay behind the camera and produce and create projects for other talent?” But now, after having this experience, I’m really excited, hopeful and inspired again. I really enjoyed being in front of the camera and having the opportunity to play Fish.
In looking back on the season, is there anything you wish you would’ve done differently with Fish?
I don’t think there’s anything I would’ve done differently, per se, but TV is so fast. One of the things that I’ve learned is the complexity in which I dealt with some of Fish—because I understood her background and a lot of people didn’t—is the Fish Mooney persona is exactly that. This was a damaged woman that came from—I won’t even say humble beginnings—I’ll say traumatic beginnings. She created this Fish Mooney persona as a mask to cover what she really believes she is. Going in and out of that mask, going from this persona of watching old Hollywood stars that would be her idea of what an elegant, intelligent, upper echelon woman behaved like. When she would go back to the gutter chick that she really is, she would go back and forth in these different personalities because that was really a weapon for her. Fish can camouflage. That was one of her strengths. She can pretty much adapt in any environment that she’s in. If I had just been able to communicate that aspect of Fish Mooney a little bit more precisely and forgetting sometimes that the audience doesn’t know her history. I wish there could’ve been more information about her background because then people might’ve even enjoyed her more. That’s really the only thing, and that’s just my own technical thinking, putting my producer hat on.
With that said, do you feel like there’s more to be told with Mooney’s story?
Oh, definitely. I absolutely do. It’s just a matter of whether it services the story of Gotham or not. At the end of the day, I knew clearly that she was there to service the Penguin character. I was fine with that and happy to take that on and I had a great time doing it.
When you revealed you wouldn’t be back for a second season, did you realize it would get so much pickup and tip what’s coming in the season finale?
You know what? I didn’t. Sometimes I can be a little too honest and when I get asked a question, I just answer it. I had already told everyone that I had always signed a year. When I first got the role, I posted that on my Facebook. I said, “Look, I’m going to TV for a season in a show called Gotham,” just basically telling my fans that I hope you’ll ride the season with me. In my mind, it didn’t seem like a big deal. I was there for a season. I didn’t think it was such a secret. Once I realized, I was like, “Wow, there it is. I’m not coming back. Can’t back peddle.” It was a moment of me not really thinking about it, being asked a question, and thinking that everybody know that, but it’s cool. I think it worked out.
What’s next for you?
We’ve got Magic Mike XXL coming out, which I’m really excited about. There are a couple of different projects that have come my way. I haven’t really made any commitments yet. One of the difficulties of being able to play a character like Fish Mooney, everything else now seems so blah. I’m just waiting for that next piece that inspires me. There are definitely a few things in the wings that we’re talking about and negotiating. Once those get locked in, you’ll hear about it.